Cheesy Quinoa Quiche Cups for a Holiday Brunch

I know I'm late, but I think I'll jump right on the quinoa bandwagon. It's good stuff and this recipe is a great example. In addition to all the health benefits of quinoa it is easy to prepare by giving it a quick rinse and then boiling for about 15 minutes in 1 to 2 ratio of water or broth (twice as much liquid as quinoa). It adds a nice mild flavor and chewy texture that doesn't overpower the other ingredients.  I'm not promising that I will consistently pronounce it correctly, however, so maybe they won't let me on the bandwagon. Once you read a word and have a pronunciation in your head, its hard to adjust. Hard, but doable if I can just get on that bandwagon!

Parents and Peppernuts (Thanks to Grace Children's Home)

My siblings and I can thank Grace Children's Home for our parents. For if they had not met they would not be our parents and it is highly unlikely that they would have met if not for Grace Children's Home.

We can also thank Grace Children's Home for an unusual recipe for peppernuts. This one includes black pepper as one of its ingredients and uses sour cream rather than butter. We found the recipe among those my mother had saved and decided to try it. I'll be sharing the recipe with you a bit later.

Make-Ahead Meatballs for Big Batch Cooking

Everyone has them. There are days that we simply don't have the time or inclination to prepare a home-cooked meal. 

The advantages to home-cooked meals are many. Usually they are healthier, less expensive and tastier. On the downside they take time and require clean-up. 

Over the years I've figured out a few ways to have a home-cooked meal without a big investment in time for each meal. (Sorry, I haven't figured out how to eliminate the clean-up.) One of the best ways is to make-ahead meals (or meal starters) by creating big batch recipes and freezing portions for later. In other words, the freezer is your friend.


Autumn Arrives in the Kansas Country Garden

Sumac has beautiful red leaves in the fall.
Welcome, Autumn! We're so glad you're here. Please make yourself at home. There's no reason to hurry off. In fact, we kind of wish you'd never go. 
Two Honey Locust trees were planted from seed by two of our sons in 2nd Grade.

Spontaneous Combustion Fries Dad's Farm Truck

No tires, no windows, no door handles--the fire consumed it all.
It went out in a ball of fire. At least that's what the evidence suggests. There was no one there to actually see it go. 

Indispensable Perennial: Autumn Joy Sedum

Kansas Country Garden 

You can tell fall is approaching. Even when the weather is warm and summery, as the calendar reaches September there are unmistakable signs in the garden. The Autumn Joy Sedum have erupted in magnificent rosy hues. The insects notice immediately.  Soon the weather complies with the calendar and a brisk coolness reinvigorates the weary. Facing the inevitable the leaves on the trees begin reveal bits of their fall colors. Walking anywhere in the garden involves wading through intricate spider webs. They are everywhere and yet there is still an element of surprise when you turn a corner and find yourself enveloped in wisps with an annoyed garden spider scurrying to the heights for safety. Autumn is finally here! 

A Kansas Country Garden: Drama in the Garden

This simple cosmos is home to some garden drama.
A self-sown sunflowers lifts its head to the sun.
There's always a bit of drama going on in the garden. Among the insects, birds (including the again absent Martha, our guinea who is setting on a nest), squirrels and bunny rabbits that inhabit our acreage life is happening. I'm oblivious to most of it. Take the photo above for instance. Yes, I knew there was a spider on the bloom. But the small bee who appears to be an intended victim? I had no idea it was there until I looked at the photo so I can't give you a "rest of the story" update. Did the bee escape or did the spider prevail? The answer is unknown to any human. 

Beloved Flavor: Sandplum Jelly

Dad picks from an unusually tall bush.
So pretty shimmering in a jar and so tasty spread on a piece of toast, sandplum jelly is a delightful legacy of the Kansas and Oklahoma sandhills. I do not believe that it is available commercially, but you may be lucky enough to live where the sandplums grow wild and then you can make your own. 

A Kansas Country Garden: 4 Reasons to Love Daylilies

The highlight of my summer garden has to be the daylilies (whose botanical name is Hemerocallis). Vivid splashes of color alternating with soft billows of pastels give beauty and substance to the garden. There are lots of reasons to love daylilies. Here are four reasons that I love daylilies.

Each flower lasts only a day. 

If I could only have one daylily, it would probably be orange.
Yes, that is something to love about this flower. That simple fact compels me to stroll through the garden each day and see, really see and cherish what is here today. It will not be the same tomorrow. Such beauty! So short a time! "Consider the lilies," said Jesus (Luke 12:27) and though the flowers he was referring to might not be quite the same as what grows in my garden, his advice is always worth following. True, there will be more blooms as each stalk has multiple buds, but tomorrow today's blooms will be faded and shriveling. Daylilies are mini-prophets whispering to us, "Embrace today. See it! Appreciate it! Tomorrow cannot be known, but this moment can."

A Kansas Country Garden: The Back Third

This faithful cultivator has seen generations of use and has not been improved upon.
Welcome to the back third of our property. I don't often take you there because that's where the vegetable garden, barn and chickens reside and personally I don't find it as attractive as the flowers. Not everyone agrees I know. Also it is the domain of the hardworking guy shown in the photo so I really can't take credit for much of what you see although I do play a small role in the planting and harvesting with a larger role in  preparing and preserving of the bounty. The weeding, though, is all him and an admirable job he does. 
There is beauty in the vegetable garden.

"Just Enough" Sandwich Bun Recipe Makes Just Enough

Here's the problem with most recipes for sandwich (or hamburger) buns. They make too many. Dozens of buns. That's great if you're having a party or a family reunion, but what if its just ma and pa on the old homestead? Throw in a kid or two if you want and that's still a lot of buns. 

A Kansas Country Garden: Held Hostage

A welcome visitor on the Verbena bonariensis
The weather is balmy and pleasant. The garden is thriving, but so are the weeds. I'm on summer break with the luxury of a little extra time. There's plenty to do in the garden (and you know I love working in the garden), but I'm not spending much time there. The curse of the hungry mosquitoes is holding me hostage.

A Few of the Things I Appreciate About My Dad

Daddy and me
This is the man I am blessed to call my dad. Yes, he's a good man and here are a few of the things I appreciate about him. It is not a complete list. 

1. He is a man of great integrity.  

My dad lives is a world of black and white. No shades of grey here. But what he believes is what he lives. Paid your grandson a dollar over the minimum for income tax reporting? Well, of course that form is going to be filled out.

A Kansas Country Garden: After the Rain

Rain is a good thing.

Raindrops cling to the lovely lilies.
Few gardeners complain about the rain. None in Kansas, I'm pretty sure. Not after suffering through several summers of drought and scorching heat.  So when the sky clouds over and thunder begins to rumble as it has been doing lately, that's a good thing.

A Kansas Country Garden: Meanings and Memories

Poppies will forever remind me of Lydia, my mother's friend who gave me my first plants.
Some flowers come to us laden with emotion and meaning. There is more to a flower than just what you see. Very often memories of the giver of the original plant mingle with the blooms. The Victorians assigned meanings to all flowers making it possible to send a potent message with a bouquet. Of course some flowers had multiple meanings which could lead to some confusion. Beware of the yellow rose!

A Kansas Country Garden: Most Wonderful Time

White lilacs have a beauty all their own.
It's the  most wonderful time of the year. For me its not Christmas (too stressful), it must be spring. What makes it so wonderful?

A Kansas Country Garden: Freeze Scare

After the freeze, the crabapple still blooms.
An erratic spring continues. A warm day, and the buds swell on the blooming trees and bushes. But the next day its cold and snow coats the green grass. Predictions are for a hard freeze that night.  If only there was a way to stop it. The crabapples, the red bud trees, the Bradford pears, the flowering almond, the lilacs--all are vulnerable. A hard freeze would mean we'd have no blooms until next year. Not a happy thought. 

A Kansas Country Garden: Spring Glows!

Who can look at a daffodil and not smile? They are just so darn cheerful. And why not? Spring is here. It must be. I think the daffodils are smiling, too.
Hyacinths have a lovely, but sometimes overpowering scent. 

A Kansas Country Garden: Farewell to Winter

All of a sudden it becomes clear. Winter will not last forever. No, we do not live in the land where it is "always winter and never Christmas." The  first sign of this are the crocus. They did not wait for the snow to melt before making an appearance. That was last week. Now they are in their full glory, a patchwork quilt of color.  Welcome, spring.
Our crocus tend to come in various shades of yellow and purple. There will be white ones as well.

Quick Mix Garlic Cheese Biscuits: Savory and Tasty

A warm, savory Garlic Cheese Biscuit is a delicious addition to any meal whether elegant or casual. Some people have to go to a certain restaurant to get them, but you don't. You can make them with just a few basic ingredients and a few minutes (but only if you already have the Quick Mix on hand). Since these are drop biscuits, there's no rolling out involved. You simply spoon them onto a baking sheet and tuck them into a hot oven. You probably already know how good they taste. 

Tropical Flavor: Sourdough Hummingbird Muffins

Somewhere a tropical breeze is blowing through palm trees and waves are lapping on a sandy beach.  Someone is reclining there, basking in the warmth; no doubt snacking on fresh pineapple or another tropical fruit before wading in the surf. 

That someone isn't me. Is it you? 

Chunky Chowder Makes a Quick Weeknight Meal

A warm, nutritious meal after busy day need not be complicated nor time consuming. Take this Chunky Chowder for instance. Using leftover deli chicken along with a few staples and some canned ingredients will have you soon slurping some delicious soup! 

Afterwards why not leave the TV off and play a table game? It is allowed, you know. I think you'll find that your evening seems much longer and it may even lead to some spirited competition or conversation. Our after dinner game as empty nesters has become cribbage, an excellent game for two. In addition to the cool wooden pegboard, it requires a deck of cards. Dominoes is typical Sunday afternoon fare at our house, but it would also be fun in the evening. Both games provide enjoyable light mental calisthenics, perfect for a winter evening. 

I am trying not to apologize for using canned cream of chicken soup in this recipe. Though I don't use it often, it works very well in this quick soup. This is a very adaptable recipe. I'll offer some suggestions at the end of this post, but if you find yourself rummaging through your refrigerator or pantry thinking Hmm, would this work?-- it very possibly could.
The ingredients

Chunky Chowder with Chicken, Cauliflower and Broccoli
(For a printable copy of this recipe, click here.)

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil or Butter (not pictured)
1/2 Medium Onion
2 Stalks Celery
1 14-oz. can Chicken Broth
1 12-oz. bag frozen Broccoli and Cauliflower 
Plus cheese
1 10.5-oz. can Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups Milk
2 cups Shredded Cooked Chicken
8 ounces Processed Cheese, white or yellow
Chop onion and celery.
Saute celery and onion in vegetable oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until tender. 

Add chicken stock and frozen vegetables. Cover and cook until vegetables are cooked, about ten minutes. If vegetables are too large, you may wish to cut them into smaller pieces. 

Stir in cream of chicken soup, chicken and milk and heat through, stirring occasionally.
Cut cheese into chunks and add to soup, stirring until melted. Serve immediately with crackers. 

What's in your refrigerator or pantry? (Some ideas for adaptions)

These stoneware soup mugs were a wedding gift. Guess which decade?
  • No celery? Leave it out, it will be fine.
  • Substitute an equal size bag of only broccoli or mixed vegetables for the broccoli and cauliflower
  • Substitute homemade chicken or turkey stock for the canned 
  • Substitute canned chicken for the deli chicken
  • A potato might be a nice addition. You could add a chopped raw potato to the stock (I'd give it a ten minute head start before adding the frozen vegetables). I often bake potatoes in my microwave for soup. My microwave has a setting for baked potatoes which makes it very easy. 
  • Substitute cream of mushroom (or celery or any other cream of) soup for the cream of chicken soup

Simple: Big Batch Parmesan Snack Mix

 Need a simple snack just slightly out of the ordinary? One that can serve a large group? Parmesan Snack Mix might be just what you're looking for! 

Here's how to make Parmesan Snack Mix:
(for a printable version of this recipe, click here.)

Mix together in a very large container. I used my huge 17X11 baking pan. (You will be baking the mix briefly so why not mix in a baking pan.) You could use two rimmed cookie sheets instead and just distribute the ingredients semi-evenly.

4 c. pretzels
6 c. corn square cereal
4 c. oyster crackers
2 c. broken pita crackers
12 oz. container peanuts

In the microwave or in a small pan on the stove melt together:
½ c. butter
½ c. olive oil

Stir in:
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. oregeno
1 t. basil
1 t. dried parsley
1 t. salt
Pour butter mixture over dry ingredients and mix gently. 

1 ½-2 c. shredded parmesan cheese over mixture and gently mix again. 

Bake is a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir once more. Serve immediately or store in sealed container. A 2 1/2 gallon storage bag works perfectly. Makes about 35 servings.

Some notes about this recipe:

  • I adapted this recipe from one I found on Look What Mom Found. If you are looking for a smaller sized recipe, you may want to check it out. Or halve the recipe above.
  • Next time I make this I think I will include Bugles, those fun bugle shaped snacks, instead of the pita crackers and maybe replace the corn squares with rice squares. This is a very adaptable recipe.

I served Parmesan Snack Mix recently when it was my turn to bring treats at work.
 In addition to the Snack Mix, I served:

Big Batch Crockpot Hot Chocolate with Pepperminty Marshmallows

When you want to serve a crowd something warm and chocolatey delicious there's nothing quite like Hot Chocolate with Pepperminty Marshmallows. Because you serve it from a crockpot, it can be available over a period of hours. You can even walk away from it and there it is welcoming everyone to stop for a moment and enjoy a quick treat. Rich and tasty, it works quite well when its your turn to provide snacks for the staff at work. This recipe serves around 25 (6 oz. serving). 
In addition to the peppermint candies, I also dipped some in sprinkles.

Pepperminty Marshmallows
The Pepperminty Marshmallows can be made a day or two in advance if needed and stored in an airtight container. Peppermint candies or canes are coarsely crushed in a food processor. (No food processor? Take a hammer or rolling pin to them!) Simply melt some chocolate bark (6 oz. is enough for 1 bag of marshmallows) in a shallow bowl in the microwave, dip one end in the chocolate and then in the peppermint crumbs. Place on plastic wrap and allow to set up. Store until needed.

Big Batch Crockpot Hot Chocolate
The cocoa has a great chocolate flavor that is rich, but not overly so. Here's how I made it:
In a saucepan combine
2/3 cup cocoa
2/3 cup sugar
Gradually add
2 cups water
Bring to a boil while stirring constantly and allow to boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and add:
1 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Stir until chips are melted and everything is combined. 

(I did this the night before, because I was bringing it to work quite early in the morning. I stored it in covered container in the refrigerator and warmed it slightly in the microwave before combining it with milk.)

Put chocolate mixture into a 5 quart crockpot and gradually stir in:
1 gallon whole milk

For a printable copy of the recipe, please click here.

Heat on low until warm. Serve with Pepperminty Marshmallows and enjoy!